A conservative reporter who has been criticized as a purveyor of fake news and conspiracy theories has sued Twitter for political discrimination, claiming the platform violated laws and its own rules by banning him for life.
Plaintiff Chuck Johnson’s lawsuit, filed Monday by attorney Robert Barnes of Barnes Law in Los Angeles, says Twitter used vague and subjective criteria allowing it “to censor or restrict political speech at their whim based purely upon its subjective beliefs, political animus, and unfettered and unbridled discretion in violation of state law.”
The attorney argues that Twitter’s decision to permanently ban Johnson negatively impacted his ability to do business at his websites, GotNews.com and WeSearchr.com, and Johnson is seeking millions of dollars in relief.
Twitter banned Johnson, a former Breitbart News reporter, temporarily on occasions, then BuzzFeed “disclosed two-year conspiracy efforts of Twitter to forever ban the plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit. The suit quotes several emails from Twitter executives that were first published a year ago by BuzzFeed.
“We perma suspended Chuck Johnson even though it wasn’t direct violent threats. It was just a call that the policy team made,” reads one email from Twitter operations vp Tina Bhatnagar.
“He is finding loopholes in policy which is almost worse than the people who blatantly have violations,” reads a note from former Twitter CEO Dick Costolo. “To be very clear, I don’t want to find out we unsuspended this Chuck Johnson troll later on.”
The attorney says that Twitter users “are induced to congregate daily,” making it a “quasi-public” space where liberty of speech and association is protected under California law.
Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Johnson’s lawsuit comes the same day as a similar one filed against Google, which alleged the search giant mistreated two former employees for their conservative politics.